In Acts chapter 16 we find a story of unbelievable influence. The Apostle Paul and Silas boldly broadcasted the incredible message of the gospel throughout the streets of Philippi. As they ministered, they met a young slave girl who was dominated by darkness, possessed by a malicious spirit. Paul sets this girl free from oppression in an amazing display of God’s ultimate authority and power over all creation.
This does not make her owners happy. Her oppression was their profit. The malicious spirit told fortunes and people paid to hear their future from this foul influence. Now their income had been severed. Now Paul and Silas had become an unwanted nuisance.
They are beaten severely and thrown into the inner parts of the dungeon. This is the part of the story that amazes me. They have only been in the prison for hours and yet Paul and Silas have a profound impact on those around them.
As they sit bloodied, bruised, and chained they praise God. God responds in a supernatural fashion. The earth itself shakes as if in percussion to their worship. This was not a normal earthquake. Every door was opened and every chain fell off.
All the prisoners were free, not one left behind. This is the part where everyone runs and become free men once again. Except no one flees. Each one stays his ground as if the jail were still closed up tight.
Surely some of these men were guilty and deserved the punishment they had received. Given the opportunity to escape justice and continue living the same lifestyle, why would they stay? In just a few hours, Paul and Silas had such an impact that they all followed their lead and remained in the midst of the dungeon no longer by compulsion but now by choice.
God’s plan was to change the jailer’s eternity and that started with saving his life. If even one of those men had fled, the jailer would have paid the price. Instead surrounded by a group of wrongdoers, reprobates, and prisoners he asks “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Influence is a powerful thing. How do we have the kind of influence that resonates through eternity?
2 Rules of Influence
Rule #1 We All Have Influence
No matter where you find yourself on the org chart or in your social circles, you have influence. It may be great or small, but anytime we interact with others we gain the ability to affect their lives.
The power of your words and the inspiration of your actions will have an effect on those you spend time with. We know this from experience. How many habits or phrases have you picked up from people close to you?
The question is not if we are influencers. The question is what kind of influencers do we want to become.
Rule #2 You Can Influence how you Influence
The good news is that you have the ability to choose the type of influence you will have. We have all been in situations where we have no control of the outcome; where it feels like all the power has been taken out of our hands. Even in the midst of tough situations we never lose our capacity to impact others. Paul and Silas had no control over their environment or the actions of others in their situation. It was their response that made the difference. Their influence peaked in how they reacted to the dungeon.
Maximizing Your Influence
Start from the Right Place
Influence is infinitely more effective when your motivation comes from something bigger than yourself. People do not respond well to selfish ambition, instead, Paul and Silas had a righteous motivation. They possessed a confidence in God and in His plan for their lives. It was during their prayer and praise that the other prisoners were listening.
As you continue to practically exercise your faith, people will listen. Godly influence begins in your heart with a real love for God and a confidence in His plan for you.
The jailer assumed that the prisoners had done what anyone else would have done and fled. He was unaware that Paul and Silas had a higher calling. Don’t let culture or circumstance dictate your actions. Instead of asking what normal people would do in this situation, ask what God would have you do. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and respond.
Because Paul and Silas stayed, the other prisoners stayed and the jailer’s life was changed forever. The story doesn’t end there. The jailer takes Paul and Silas home and his entire household hears the message of God’s love and their story is changed as well. We may never see how far out our actions reach but God takes little and makes much out of it.
Be encouraged today to keep doing what is right, people are listening.